ASRI Kids is the brainchild of a collaboration between Health In Harmony, Project ASRI, and a family who volunteered on site with Klinik ASRI for an entire summer. Spending time with the local kids, Lucia and Ana Sofia Amieva-Wang made friends — and realized that most of the children had never been to see the local National Park, Gunung Palung, and the orangutans that reside there, even though many of their parents were learning about the importance of forest protection from ASRI. With the goal to educate local children about forest protection, technology, and give the opportunity to visit un-logged, amazing rainforest, “ASRI Kids” was born.
The inaugaral session of ASRI kids took place in June 2012. On average, 20-25 boys and girls ranging in ages from four to nineteen attended classes teaching: rainforest biology and diversity, threats to the environment, trash and proper disposal, making recycled paper, a fieldtrip to an organic farm, planting seedlings, making compost, healthy eating, and hand washing. One of the greatest strengths was the guest speakers. It was refreshing for the children to see new faces, and to be able to ask specific questions to the “expert.” Indonesian researchers from Gunung Palung came to speak about their research on gibbons and leaf monkeys. It was an opportunity for the children to see an example of a job they could hold in the future.
The trip to Tanjung Puting was the highlight. None of the kids had been on a plane before, nor seen orangutans, or other wildlife up close even though they live in a village bordering the rainforest. The kids slept, ate and sang on a river boat, hiked in the preserve and observed the orangutans; they took pictures and wrote about their trip. Their presentations for their parents and the ASRI staff showed how much they had learned, how much fun they had. On a more serious note, they spoke out to the local newspaper about the devastation from illegal logging in general and their outrage at discovering one of the last, and oldest trees in the forest behind their village cut down over the summer. Even though this summer’s program has ended, the ASRI Kids have continued to participate in the organic garden, gather materials to recycle and make recycled paper for Ramadan cards. The other towns bordering the forest have asked for similar conservation programs in the schools; the kids are also helping with these classes. ASRI Kids is here to stay!